In a victory for France, the European Court of Justice today (13 December) struck down the European Parliament's effort to reduce the amount of time spent at its seat in Strasbourg.
The court annulled a Parliament decision in March 2011 to split the October plenary sessions into two parts (25-26 October 2012 and 22-23 October in 2013), in effect reducing the number days spent in Strasbourg by scheduling more sessions in Brussels.
The Luxembourg-based court said in a statement that the actions of MEPs "must be annulled to the extent that they do not provide for 12 periods of monthly plenary part-sessions in Strasbourg in 2012 and 2013."
France had asked the court to intervene and won support from Luxembourg, which hosts the Parliament's administrative offices.
The ruling doesn’t come as a surprise. The court's Advocate General had already issued a preliminary decision striking down the Parliament's decision.
The ruling is expected to unleash a flurry of reactions from MEPs, who voted overwhelmingly in October to prepare a roadmap for ending the Parliament's costly shuttle between its seats in Brussels and Strasbourg.
British Conservative MEPs sent angry e-mails, expressing bitter disappointment over the ruling.
Campaign leader Ashley Fox (European Conservatives and Reformists group, UK), whose own amendment led to the cut in Strasbourg trips for 2012 and 2013, said the ruling was undemocratic and would prove counterproductive. He vowed that the Conservatives' long-term battle would continue to end the wasteful treks to Strasbourg altogether – and would eventually prevail.
“This decision is not unexpected because the court received legal advice along these lines from advocate general earlier this year, but it is still bitterly disappointing.
"Still, this case is no more than a skirmish in our longer-term war to stop the ridiculous two-seat travelling circus altogether. The fight continues and I am sure before long we will succeed,” he said.